So why did Disney spend all of this time, energy and money to fly us African American mom bloggers to Orlando for this fabulous weekend?
They’re smart…that’s why. According to findings of Magazine Publishers of America reported in an article in Folio magazine earlier this year, African American spending power will pass $1 trillion by 2012. Historically, the purchases made by Black women are the single biggest influence on the growth of African American spending.
From what I gathered, the main point of the mixer was for Disney Parks to understand our perceptions of their brand and to learn how they could do a better job of connecting with African American mothers in general.
Disney’s marketing executives asked us what we thought of their brand and we told them. (I’m not quite sure if they were expecting our level of honesty, but oh, well…)
A couple of the things that stood out to me at our initial roundtable chit-chat session were the following:
-A few moms had issues with the whole princess aspect of Disney. They felt as if there should be more of a variety of empowering female role models coming out of Disney since it is such a media powerhouse. Their point wasn’t that it should be an either (princess)/or (empowering science/math/sports figures) thing, but instead that there should be a variety of images that young girls should be able to aspire to. That wasn’t really my issue (my favorite color is pink and I love princess movies!) but I can appreciate the validity of the point. (It would probably resonate more strongly with me if I actually had a little girl of my own.)
-All of us (in varying degrees) took issue with the lack of diversity in Disney films and products. Before going to Disney, I had looked at some of their advertising material (print and online). What stood out to me was that the only black or brown people that I saw were in subservient type roles. Likewise, one of the blogger moms who lives in Florida and visits the Parks a couple of times a year with her family shared about seeing a show at one of the parks. There were many different characters in the show, but the only person of color that she saw was a chimney sweep!
We then talked about the fact that there still has not been a Black Disney princess on the screen. Some of the moms who had daughters expressed a mixture of anger and sadness that they couldn’t provide their daughters with princess costumes/images/etc. that reflected their culture and appearance. Once again, it wasn’t an either/or type conversation. Rather, it was a “let’s have everyone represented” tone. This discussion just so happened to be focused on African Americans, but I’m sure that other “minority” groups – Latinas, Asians, etc.- feel the importance of their cultures and images being represented and celebrated also.
Overall, it was a great discussion. We were encouraged to go through the various parks and to take note of what they were doing right and what they still needed to improve upon – a challenge that we were eager to take on. At the end of the weekend, we met up again and chatted. We were all so happy that our initial view of the Parks had changed. WE SAW BROWN PEOPLE (and not just chimney sweeps!). There were a variety of black and brown people included in the park’s attractions and entertainment, so obviously that is something that has changed. We were also encouraged by the fact that there is going to be a Black fairy Iridessa in the upcoming Disney Tinker Bell release and that The Princess and the Frog (the first Disney movie featuring a Black princess!) is in production.
Overall, the most important thing to me (as a participant) was that it seemed as if the Disney cast members really listened and cared about our input. (We gave them some specific practical suggestions that I won’t really go into here.) So, we’ll see. We have a saying down South…”the proof is in the pudding”. Basically in this case that means that the true value of our discussions can only be judged when (and if) the Disney executives put our ideas in practice. In any event, I was honored to simply be a part of the discussion!